Sarah Godsell

Graduate Student
Intellectual Biography: 

My PhD project is framed within the group ‘Local Histories, Present Realities’ and was intended to be a history of the Hammanskraal area. Hammanskraal is an area 100km north of Johannesburg, which lies on the border area of the ex-bantustan Bophuthatswana. The project focuses on border-construction. It has, however, developed into an engagement with space and ways of belonging.

The focus of my current project merges concepts of space production (Lefebvre, 1974 and Massey, 2005) using ideas of administered space and lived space as a heuristic device. After an unsuccessful attempt to harness the problematic ide of the term identity (Brubaker and Cooper, 2005), I have moved to rather thinking about ‘ways of belonging.’ This then can include people’s strategies around, within and against the policies of the colonial, apartheid, homeland and post-apartheid State. With this I have engaged with ideas of territorialisation (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988).

I have drawn on the debates within South African historiography that probe questions of class, gender, historicity, temporality and narrative (for example Mager, 1999; Lalu 2009, Hofmeyr, 1994). My project involves engaging with South African homeland histories and historiographies, which have lead to an engagement with theories of Empire and de-colonisation. The homelands of South Africa are currently receiving a renewed focus, as the significance of their political trajectories is being recognised in post-apartheid South Africa. Re-examining the histories of the South African homelands however requires a complex investigation not only into the political structures, but into the ways that inhabitants of the homelands negotiated and structured their lives. Global theory, while facilitating debates not regionally bounded, has received critique for the implicit power structures re-producing the sites of knowledge productive. I engage with ‘Global theory from the South’ as a project not only non-regionally bound, but also aware of the sites of knowledge production. The problematic is in adopting the terms Global South, or Global Theory from the South, as a bounded field, rather than a heuristic device.

The work I would like to present at this workshop examines gender, sexuality and desire as was used by and mobilised against Esther Kekana (a prominent and well-respected leader of a traditional authority in Hammanskraal 1965-1976). In this case-study Esther Kekana’s womb, as well her sexuality, were used to delegitimise her, and finally remove her from power after she had resisted a language policy imposed by the Bophuthatswana regime led by Lucas Mangope. I would think this case study through in what it adds to questions of the embodiment of women’s location, as ‘others’. She was accepted as leader while she complied with the power structures (although this was technically not accepted by what was seen as dictates of tradition), however her status as ‘other’ facilitated her quick removal when she rebelled. This status as ‘other’ culminated in the control of her womb: when it was suggested that she could not remain in power because she had not borne a male heir, and then suggested that she could be impregnated by a chosen member of the royal family, and continue the royal lineage, but still not remain in power. I would like to examine this using literature that might be considered “northern” (Butler, 1990; Brown, 1995) as well as literature considered otherwise (Oyerunke 1997, Bakare-Yusuf 2004), mixing these literatures rather than reading them against each other.

Presentation Title: 
The law and the womb: the control of sexuality in the case study of Esther Kekana
D Mupotsa, (forthcoming Phd) Chapter 1, "A Question of Power" B Bakare Yusuf ' “YORUBA’S DON’T DO GENDER”: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF OYERONKE OYEWUMI’s The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses' available on Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing, Columbia University Press, New York, 2012